The Masaka City Town Clerk and the City Physical Planner are on the spot over the destruction of a major wetland in Masaka city.
A Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) Officer only identified as Major Patrice Mugume is currently dumping heaps of soil in part of Nabajjuzi wetland, along the Masaka-Mbarara bypass, despite protests by local leaders and environmental activists.
The affected wetland is a tributary of Nabajjuzi wetland of which serves as the main water catchment area for Masaka district’s main water source, which directly drains from the wetland’s streams.
The developer who is now intending to put up a commercial building, according to Florence Namayanja, the Masaka City Mayor conspired with some technical officers in the area to irregularly permit him to utilize the wetland in a manner that is destructive to the ecosystem.
Namayanja indicates that some unscrupulous people took advantage of the transition period when Masaka was elevated to City status and connived with some technical persons to irregularly acquire properties in town including gazetted open spaces.
Juliet Kakande, the Masaka City Woman MP and Mathias Mpuuga, the Nyendo-Mukungwe Division MP also Leader of the Opposition Monday visited the contested construction site.
Mpuuga blamed the Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA for allowing the developer to remove the road guardrails to allow him to access the swamp with dump trucks.
The leaders have tasked the Masaka City Principal Engineer Augustine Turibalungi to formally overturn all the ongoing activities with immediate effect.
Major Mugume could not be reached for a comment, but one of his agents who only identified himself as Patrick claims that they obtained authorization from the local authorities after procuring the plot from the initial owners.
He also showed a letter by the former Masaka Municipality clerk John Bahengana clearing the disputed works.
Antonio Kalyango, the Executive Director of Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (BCF), a local environmental conservation civil society says that tampering with Nabajuzi wetland and its water flow may lead to adverse effects on the entire ecosystem of Masaka and the neighbouring district.
He threatens that they may be prompted to mobilize for protests should the concerned authorities fail to stop the destruction of the environment.
Kalyango equally warned that such acts risk Masaka losing the Ramsar city status because it’s Nabajjuzi that would make it qualify to the above status.
“The continuous attack of human activities meted on Nabajjuzi swamp by unscrupulous individuals for self-gains in face of authorities should be checked by line ministries and other stakeholders as the acts are an existential threat to the future of the Nabajjuzi wetland,” he said
Emmanuel Gakyalo, the Acting Masaka City Clerk when asked about the controversy, said needed time to crosscheck with available records to find out what transpired, however, denying allegations of shielding the developer.
Nabajjuzi Wetland System which extends in Masaka, Sembabule and Mpigi districts, is one of Uganda’s Ramsar sites. These are Wetlands of International Importance and in Uganda they are spread around the country, the sites contribute a variety of wetland types to the total area of Ramsar sites in the country.
Uganda, which joined the Ramsar Convention in 1988, now has 11 Ramsar sites covering a surface area of 354,803 hectares. Globally, the Convention’s 153 Contracting Parties have designated 1626 Ramsar sites, covering 145,594,013 hectares.
Other Ramsar sites in Uganda include among others: Lake Bisina Wetland System which extends In Katakwi ,Kumi and Soroti districts , Lake Mburo-Nakivali Wetland System in Isingiro district , Lake Nakuwa Wetland System in Kumi district , Lake Opeta Wetland System which extends to Nakapiripirit, Sironko, Katakwi, Kumi districts , Lutembe Bay Wetland System in Wakiso district.
Others are Mabamba Bay Wetland System in Wakiso and Mpigi districts, Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Wetland System in Masindi district, Sango Bay-Musambwa Island-Kagera Wetland System in Rakai district